22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Achievement
To contextualise: I am a big Austen fan and I teach "Pride and Prejudice" every year so I can be hard to please! For example, "Death Comes to Pemberley" was better on the TV in my opinion. What makes "Longbourn" a success is that it doesn't try to reimagine Elizabeth and Mr Darcy's courtship. In fact, the latter barely features which many will...
Published 8 months ago by sharona27
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reworking of the classic from the servants' point of view
'There could be no wearing of clothes without laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshire anyway, and not in September.'
I liked the premise the opening sentence makes clear - seeing the events of Pride and Prejeudice from the point of view of the servants and gaining insight into the lives of the ordinary classes...
Published 17 months ago by Purpleheart
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional treasure,
What an extraordinary feast of a book! I don't think I have ever read a better historical novel.
It's completely packed with everyday life detail for ordinary people. Far too many historical novels give us situations where it's just modern people wearing long dresses or riding a horse. Here we enter the real world of living with dawn starts, lugging every drop of water into the house in buckets, sore chliblained hands, mud up the skirts, horses needing care.
But although there is so much sheer information there it never swamps the drama that these are people, who love, hope, suffer, wait and struggle, as we do. That is a truly skilled writer. We share their dreams, and how some of them do not dare to dream.
My familiar friends in Pride and Prejudice move back into the background. I thought in the first hour of reading I might find this disturbing. But then I was engrossed in these ordinary people and I cared far more what was happening to them. I liked seeing Elizabeth, Jane, Mr. and Mrs. B. from another point of view when they did show up. But far more I became lost in this underworld which I did know quite a bit about - or I thought I did.
It was also good to find servants and other lower class people who were reading, thinking about politics and the great events of their times. Exhaustion and limited education did block much of this but stronger people could and did exercise brainpower. Oh and how sleekly this book explores women, the sexism of their world, but without preaching or moaning.
Then there's the romances, not so predictable, and an awesome hero with a rival who also fascinating. As for the older generation they are even more daring ... just read and find out!
After all that it is in many places an extremely funny book. Just how a lower class Austen should be. In fact if Austen had written the book about the servants and their interconnected stories, this is what she would have written.
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely gripping, read it in less than 24 hours.,
This tells the story of the Bennett household in Pride and Prejudice from the standpoint of the servants, the shadowy figures at the edge of the novel - it gives a sense of the physicality of Regency Life - petticoats covered in mud have to be laboriously scrubbed and soaked, without modern appliances or products - you feel the pain of Sarah's chilblained, cracked hands as she goes about her work, the not so dainty side of the Bennett sisters' lives. There is a whole other life for the household, with as much love, drama and excitement as the main characters experience, with well rounded characters, and well researched settings.
5.0 out of 5 stars Longbourne - novel by Jo Baker,
I really enjoyed it!
I'd read two very positive reviews of this novel and wondered if it would live up to that praise and my expectations but it did. I read it almost in oe sitting.
If you like Jane Austen's fictional world (like I do) then this is a story for you. The Bennett family are shown in a whole new light - especially Mrs & Mrs - and not all of it is favourable. Darcy hardly features but that doesn't matter, it's lives of those below stairs which serve to illuminate those of their so-called 'betters' upstairs.
While not wanting to give too much away. if you've never liked Mr Wickham, you'll find that he is even worse than you imagined!
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant uncovering of the Downstairs to Austen's Upstairs,
Most attempts to continue or embroider on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are like buttermilk, blue, thin, and entirely without the deliciousness of cream. Longbourn is not. Jo Baker has written a magnificent companion to the original, uncovering the domestic side of the household, without which the Bennett's would not have functioned. The plot is clever, believable, and satisfying. I urge you to buy and read it.
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written,
As well as being a fascinating twist on a familiar story, this was wonderful prose, beautifully observed and gentle - thank you !
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun for the fans of Austen!,
The story is well written, the quotes at the beginning of each chapter reminds us of specific moments in Pride and Prejudice, and the author brings up all sorts of interesting social issues. Not great literature maybe but certainly a very good read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars for Longbourn,
Difficult to believe that this 'spin off' from Pride & Prejudice would be such a page turner!
5.0 out of 5 stars Longbourn,
In this richly imagined novel, author Jo Baker has used the frame of Pride and Prejudice and taken the story 'downstairs' to the servants quarters. Mrs Hill is the housekeeper and her elderly husband struggles with the outside work. Sarah and Polly are the housemaids; Polly little more than a child, and the household of seven people provide more than enough work. Into this scenario comes James Smith, taken on to help share the load and, while Sarah is grateful for the help, she is mistrustful of him. We view events through the point of view of Sarah, who is bored with the monotony and drudgery of her work, disatisfied with her life and who longs for change. When Mr Bingley arrives at Netherfield, he brings with him a handsome and exotic footman, Ptolemy Bingley, who seems to offer the possibility of a new life.
All the characters from Jane Austen's world make appearances here and the author is careful not to change events or characters in a way that would offend lovers of that authors wonderfully imagined world. Yet, events are viewed from the point of view of a servant. Mr Collins visit throws the house below stairs into a panic, for example, with Mrs Hill desperate to impress him - after all, their future also depends on him when he inherits Longbourn. Elizabeth's trudges through the countryside are viewed with dismay by Sarah, whose poor hands are ruined by the constant washing she does. Even reading about the laundering endured by Sarah, frankly made me exhausted! Wickham is as slimy and dangerous as he ever was in the novel and the militia create a stir in the neighbourhood, while causing James Smith a great deal of unease. Overall, this is a novel which can be enjoyed, whether or not you are familiar with Austen's novel - Jo Baker has cleverly created a new world which will appeal both to fans of Austen and to new readers.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So disappointing,
Seduced by the rave reviews from so many impressive sources I bought this book but soon became very disappointed with it. The dialogue is often dire and the plot seems clumsy. In all I found this book boring and fail to understand how it was praised so highly.
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and beautifully written,
This lovely book had me entranced from the first sentence. I marvel at the way some books can do that - they reel you in and you inhabit their world, even when you aren't actively reading. Sufficient to say I enjoyed every sentence, there was nowhere that it jarred or felt untrue. Read it.
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Longbourn by Jo Baker (Paperback - 2 Jan. 2014)